Radioiodine whole-body scans, thyroglobulin levels, 99mTc-MIBI scans and computed tomography: results in patients with lung metastases from differentiated thyroid cancer

Ozlem N Küçük, Sinan S Gültekin, Gülseren Aras, Erkan Ibiş
Nuclear Medicine Communications 2006, 27 (3): 261-6

OBJECTIVES: The correlation between a 131I whole-body scan (WBS), a 99mTc sestamibi (99mTc-MIBI) WBS, a computed tomography (CT) scan and the value of routine follow-up for 131I WBS and thyroglobulin (Tg) levels in patients with lung metastases from differentiated thyroid cancer was assessed.

METHOD: Pulmonary metastases were detected in 32 patients out of 583 with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) who were admitted to our clinic between 1985 and 2004 (age range, 22-79 years; mean, 58 +/- 19 years; 15 women and 17 men). Pulmonary metastases were diagnosed by considering the 131I WBS, increased Tg levels and/or other positive radiological findings. Papillary carcinoma was diagnosed in 15/32 patients and follicular carcinoma in 13/32. A mixed type found in 4/32 patients was classified histopathologically. A total of 3.7-53.65 GBq (100-1450 mCi) 131I was given to each patient. The duration of follow-up ranged from 36 to 240 months. A 131I WBS, the determination of Tg levels and/or a CT scan were carried out in the assessment of a diagnosis and follow-up of patients with lung metastases. A 99mTc-MIBI WBS was performed on 19 patients who were chosen at random from the 583.

RESULTS: Nineteen of 32 patients had lung metastases before they received the first 131I treatment. Six of the 32 had distant-organ metastases other than in the lungs. Four of these six patients had only lung and bone metastases. Pulmonary metastases were observed on the 131I WBS patients 31/32 (96.8%) whereas no pulmonary metastases, were detected on the CT scans in 3/32 patients. The last diagnostic whole-body scan (DWBS) was normal in 13/32 patients. At the first examination, the Tg levels in 27/32 (84.4%) patients were below 30 ng . ml(-1). At the final examination, 20/32 (62.5%) patients had Tg levels higher than 30 ng . ml(-1), while Tg levels were lower than 30 ng . ml(-1) in 12/32 patients. Tg levels decreased in 21/32 and increased in 3/32 patients. The 131I WBS continued to be abnormal in 2/3 patients with increased Tg levels but became normal in one patient whose CT scan still showed macro-nodular lesions. Tg levels did not change significantly in 8/32 patients. The 131I WBS became normal in 5/8 patients, while the CT scans for 4/5 showed micro-nodules. Metastases were detected in 12/19 patients who underwent 99mTc-MIBI whole-body scanning: 18/19 showed metastases on the 131I WBSs and 17/19 on the CT scans. Of the seven patients without a sign of metastasis on the 99mTc-MIBI WBS, one was negative in terms of metastasis on the 131I WBS and one on the CT scan. Fibrosis was observed on the CT scans of 2/32 patients. One patient developed dedifferentiation, as determined by the negative 131I WBS and positive CT scan.

CONCLUSION: 131I whole-body scanning and the determination of Tg levels are the most important procedures for the evaluation of lung metastases in differentiated thyroid cancer. Computed tomography is a useful addition to 131I whole-body scanning. MIBI imaging alone may not be enough to detect lung metastases from differentiated thyroid cancer.

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